While we were still reeling from the after effects of the disastrous year that 2020 was, 2021 became the year for healing and more resilience. Amidst all the chaos, I am glad to have survived yet another year of highs and lows, and throughout all of this, I managed to read some remarkable books. Here is a list of some of my favourite books that I read in 2021, in no particular order of preference.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Yoko Ogawa is the third Japanese author I’ve read after Murakami and Julie Otsuka, and what a pleasant experience it has been. Japanese authors have a way to portray human relationships and their intricacies in a very nuanced and sensitive manner. This is precisely why I picked up The Housekeeper and the Professor, and Ogawa didn’t disappoint. It’s a short story full of sweetness and sadness, that leaves you with a heavy feeling after you have finished reading it.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
If you have read Backman’s charming debut ‘My Name is Ove’, you would know that despite focusing on situations that aren’t quite life and death, Backman’s writing tends to be heart wrenching that leave a lasting impact on you, long after you’ve finished the book. His latest ‘Anxious People’ is one such read. At times it is comical and at others it is quite practical. The characters and what they go through in life is written in such a manner that I had to put down the book several times to process that it was actually fiction and not someone’s own life story. This may not be a life changing book or even a memorable one. But it’s a story with people that seem real, who are caught up in a situation that is albeit a little unrealistic.
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the estranged and eldest child of co-founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, writes in her memoir about her miserable childhood and her difficult relationship with her father that heavily influenced the person she ended up being. Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking things that came up repeatedly in this memoir was Lisa’s desperate attempt to be loved and accepted by her father and his wife, Lorreane. And in the process, she kept undermining the struggles and eventual mental breakdowns of her mother.
However, I wish this book focused a little more on other aspects of her life and her mother, instead of just being about the selfishness and absent nature of her famous father. But the way she describes the thoughts of her younger self resonated deeply with me. Most children want to be loved by their families no matter what, and when they are deprived of that love and affection, it leaves a long lasting affect on their personalities and psyche. And that is the fundemental lesson we can derive from Lisa’s memoir.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Like many readers, I often scoffed at the concept of self-help books. But ‘The Power of Habit’ cannot be put into the same category of other self-help books. It’s smartly written and is based on scientific research and quantitative data accumulated from various social experiments across the US. It uses research to explain how habits are formed and changed.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
In 2015, a journalist from the Wall Street Journal named John Carreyrou started digging deep into wrongdoings of Theranos, a startup which aimed to revolutionise healthcare with its blood testing technology, and continued investigating it as it directly affected public health. Eventually, his investigations proved to be a key ingredient in bringing down Theranos, and its founder Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout who was touted as the youngest female billionaire. This is the riveting true story of how Theranos turned out to be the biggest scam of Silicon Valley in recent times and how Holmes managed to pull it off by fooling some of the most influential people to invest in her company. I haven’t read a total page turner such as this one in such a long time and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested to know how power and greed can drive people to do the most damaging things to themselves and those around them.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The idea of thrillers having plots centering around the death of a young girl are in abundance, but this one deals with a lot more than that. Like in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’, Ng’s previous book I had read, this too deals with what it means to be racially discriminated in a suburban small town in America. I’m a reader who keeps looking for such issues regarding representation and struggles with discrimination in any kind of content I consume, whether its television, films or books. And this is where Ng delivers so well as a writer. She knows how to tell her story through excellent prose with meaningful plot lines, and the impact of it lingers long after you have turned the last page.